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The Checkup: After deaths, back to drawing board at Holyoke Soldiers' Home

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With this daily feature, The Eagle runs down breaking local developments in the coronavirus crisis.

AFTER DEATHS, BACK TO DRAWING BOARD: Six years ago, the state hired a company to plan renovations to the Holyoke Soldiers' Home. That design never came off the shelf. This year, the home lost 76 residents to the coronavirus.

Whether an earlier remodeling and expansion would have saved lives can't be known. But the state is moving, now, to get the work done. It plans to apply by next April for a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs grant to help pay for it all.

The firm, Payette, will interview residents and families for its review of the building's needs, according to the state. By this fall, the effort will bring on an architectural designer.

Cheryl Lussier Poppe, the acting secretary of veterans' services, this week linked the Soldiers' Home of the future to the one that saw tragedy this year.

"We have a unique opportunity to shift the models of long-term care that we offer to our veterans, following the pandemic that has shined a spotlight on necessary and urgent infection control needs," she said in a statement.

The planning may or may not result in designs for new buildings. Specifics, including costs, are due this fall.

THE NUMBERS: The state Department of Public Health said six new deaths were reported as of Tuesday in Massachusetts, pushing the total to 8,617. Deaths including those listed as probably caused by COVID-19 now total 8,848. Confirmed cases rose 175 to 114,786. Including probable cases, the count statewide is 123,841, according to The New York Times.

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The DPH is no longer listing daily deaths by community. Those figures are now released on Wednesdays and cover the week before.

According to data provided by Johns Hopkins University, 100,486 people in Massachusetts with COVID-19 have recovered.

As of Tuesday, 24,522 cases have been confirmed among residents and staff of long-term care facilities, up 10 in a day. In all, 397 facilities have had at least one confirmed case and have seen 5,662 deaths linked to COVID-19, a daily increase of four.

BEYOND OUR BORDERS: Global cases as of Tuesday totaled 21,974,080, with 776,154 deaths and 13,934,497 instances of recovery, according to data provided by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has seen 5,422,242 cases, 171,343 deaths and 1,865,580 recoveries, the school said.

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LEADING INDICATORS: The state Department of Public Health provides the following statistics daily as indicators in the fight against coronavirus infection. Each provides a number and then — in a new reporting format — a change in either the count or "lowest observed value." (Previously, the DPH compared all figures to April 15 data.) Tuesday's figures:

- Seven-day weighted average of positive test rate: 1.4, unchanged.

- Three-day average of number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals: 371, up 3 percent.

- Number of hospitals using surge capacity to care: 1, up 1 from the lowest.

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- Three-day average of COVID-19 deaths: 9, unchanged.

TWO WEEK LOOKBACK: The Eagle is also calculating results for a 14-day lookback on some leading indicators. As of Tuesday, positive tests over a seven-day period showed a 36.75 percent drop from two weeks ago. The three-day average of the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals represented a 1.94 percent decline. The three-day average of confirmed COVID-19 deaths fell 12.9 percent from two weeks ago.

AT THE HOSPITALS: As of Tuesday, Berkshire Medical Center and Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington continued to have no COVID-19 cases.

The patient count for other western Massachusetts hospitals: Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, four cases, three in ICU; Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, one case, one in ICU; Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, 20 cases, one in ICU; Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, five cases, one in ICU; Holyoke Hospital, five cases, one in ICU; Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield, two cases, neither in ICU.

The numbers include both confirmed and suspected cases.

Statewide, as of Tuesday there were 374 people hospitalized, with the latest daily admission of 130 people. Of those hospitalized, 66 are in ICU and 23 are on ventilators.

To date, 12,178 people have been hospitalized in Massachusetts, according to Johns Hopkins, and 1,464,914 people have been tested for the virus.

To contribute news to The Checkup, please email lparnass@berkshireeagle.com or call 413-588-8341.


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